Watching The Debt, I was reminded of how entertaining a well-executed Cold War thriller can be. Although elements of this movie, based on the 2007 Israeli film Ha-Hov, have a kinship to Steven Spielberg's Munich, the overall thrust is more in line with the stripped-down plot from a John Le Carre or Len Deighton novel. Masters of intricate, surprising spy novels, these two arguably crafted the most compelling post-World War II tales of espionage and betrayal to be found on bookstore shelves. The Debt is less complex than anything penned by either man, but it recalls their work and adds its own "twist" with an extended contemporary epilogue (easily the film's weakest element).
The Debt opens in a manner that might confound impatient viewers, skipping back and forth between events in 1966 and 1997. As the story evolves, we recognize that the early moments of the film have provided us with a glimpse of various "highlights" of the overall narrative, which is eventually presented in a fairly straightforward, chronological manner. This includes an "alternative" version of a key incident which illustrates the power of the unreliable narrator in cinema. The misdirection that occurs early in the proceedings enriches the eventual development of the plot.
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